"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Before I moved, I overheard a local radio d.j. bitching about comedians and television shows making jokes aimed at Christians and/or Christianity. This, he bemoaned, was obviously the product of the Liberal Media. Why, oh why, were these soulless bastards taking shots at Christianity rather than Islam (or any other religion, for that matter)?
Well, I may be over exaggerating exactly what he said, but the gist of it is still there. And I found myself wondering exactly what shows this man was watching. Off the top of my head, I could think of several series: Family Guy, Futurama, American Dad, Morel Orel, Metalocalypse... Each of these shows has poked fun at Judaism, Islam, Native American Spirituality, Satanism, and/or Paganism.
Also, it may be worth noting that the majority of Americans (and probably a large number of the people making Christian jokes) are Christians themselves. Jokes only work when the audience is familiar with the material. A Hindu joke probably won't get as big of a laugh out of U.S. citizens for the simple fact that most of them know little to nothing about Hinduism. (For that matter, I seem to recall that a lot of religious jokes in anime tend to be Buddhist in nature. Not surprising, since Japan's population is largely Buddhist.)
However, there was more to this man's comments that bothered me. Namely, the fact that he got so worked up over this issue. Here he is, living in a nation that is largely Christian. Christian churches abound across the nation (in fact, west Michigan - where this d.j. heralds from - has one of the largest concentrations of churches per square mile in the nation). He doesn't have to worry about being threatened, beaten up, or fired because of his religion. He can go to church without worrying that it will be targeted by anti-Christian terrorists.
The President of the United States is a Christian (Even if he rarely follows Jesus' teachings, but that's a different subject.) and has filled his staff with members of the Religious Right. The vast majority of Senators, Representatives, Governors, Mayors, and other elected officials are Christian. The President has even vowed to veto a bill that would include sexual orientation as a factor to be considered in hate crimes because it might discriminate against Christians.
Programs like the 700 Club abound on television and radio, and major movers and shakers in the various Christian organizations such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council has a good amount of sway in Washington.
So what is this guy complaining about?
Oh, yeah... someone made a joke.
Sadly, this one disc jockey in the Midwest is not alone. More and more, I've been hearing from those who claim that Christianity is under attack and that Christians face severe persecution in their everyday lives. (It really makes me want to drag out the history books and show these people exactly what Christian martyrs in past centuries were subjected to.)
Christianity is under siege from liberals, feminists, homosexuals, secular humanists... you name it. Apparently these groups are large, well-funded, and have vast holds of Washington and the media.
It would be funny if they weren't so serious. I would roll my eyes at the exaggeration, but these people have loud voices and more and more people are listening to them.
If you repeat something often enough, people begin to believe it, irregardless of its truth.
More and more people are finding themselves deep in despair. Their lives are, quite literally, falling apart. The cost of living is rising rapidly, but their wages are not seeing a similar increase. Manufacturing jobs that could be counted on to support a family are being shipped overseas. People are trying to scrape by in fields that only make a fraction of what they need. Bills are adding up.
Divorce rates are on the rise. The quality of education is decreasing even as the cost of tuition goes up. Things seem to be falling wildly out of control, spinning the population into chaos, and there is nowhere to go.
American culture is becoming increasingly soulless. People live in vast suburbs where they hardly see people out during the day, spend hours on the road driving to or from work, kill time talking on the phone or surfing the internet. The most human interaction they get comes from bosses bitching at them or the pimpled teen at the drive-thru handing them a burger.
People are scared, and they have a right to be. Society really does seem to be crumbling around them. That's why the Religious Right, why the Megachurches, have such a draw. They offer a way to make things right again. They give a cause to believe in, a scapegoat to blame. Never mind that many of the hot-button issues they pound away at - abortion, sex, homosexuality - have little to no impact on the things these people really need. It gives them a focus for their rage and fear.
I picked up a copy of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America one day while browsing at a bookstore. The author, Chris Hedges, had been on The Daily Show recently, and I had agreed with many of the things he said. I didn't intend to buy a copy, at least not right away, since I knew he would be preaching to the choir. However, I was curious, so I sat down and began flipping through the pages.
I ended up buying the book that day after all.
What disturbs me so much is not necessarily what the Religious Right preaches, but how it spreads its message. How it targets the fearful, the lost, the down-and-out and manipulates them, separates them from their former lives (often breaking families apart) until these people are isolated and have nowhere else to go. It bothers me that there are classes that instruct people on how to invent a story about how they were saved by Jesus to use to convert others. It scares me that no one points out the hypocrisy of the Religious Right leaders who own mansions and private jets that are paid for by the tithes of their flock, people who are often barely making ends meet as it is, people who never see that money funneled back into programs that could help them.
I don't like seeing other people manipulated and used to begin with, but when it's done in the name of God and Jesus, it just makes me sick.
It scares me witless that not only are these people that depraved, but that they are winning many cultural battles. Evolution, the foundation of so many branches of science, is being downplayed more and more to placate these people. Creationism, which has no place in a science classroom, is frequently being added to the curriculum to pacify its followers. So much of what we have learned over the centuries is being discarded because it offends.
And now it appears that one cannot even make a joke without someone bemoaning their persecuted state.
In honor Labor Day, here's something to think about:
Could You Afford to Be Poor?
But the high cost of poverty was brought home to me within a few days of my entry into the low-wage life, when, slipping into social-worker mode, I chastised a co-worker for living in a motel room when it would be so much cheaper to rent an apartment. Her response: Where would she get the first month’s rent and security deposit it takes to pin down an apartment? The lack of that amount of capital – probably well over $1000 – condemned her to paying $40 a night at the Day’s Inn.